George Padmore - the Forgotten Man of History: On 13 June, the Pan-African Community Will Be Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of George Padmore's Birth. Lester Lewis Traces the Illustrious Life of the Man Who Trained Nkrumah. (Diaspora)

Article excerpt

In a 1971 lecture on "Nkrumah, Padmore and the Ghanaian Revolution", C.L.R James described George Padmore as "one of the greatest politicians of the 20th century". That he was, and very few Africans are aware of this fact.

Further, James described the Nkrumah-Padmore partnership as "an unbeatable combination". Padmore had educated and trained Nkrumah. Nkrumah had educated Padmore in the realities of the African situation. Together, they helped to win the independence of Ghana.

When Padmore died in London in 1959, he was cremated. At Nkrumah's request, his ashes were sent to Ghana and interred at Christianborg Castle. Nkrumah told the Ghana Radio Service. "One day, the whole of Africa will surely be free and united and when the final tale is told, the significance of George Padmore's work will be revealed."

In describing his relationship with Padmore, Nkrumah said: "When I first met George some 15 years ago, we both realised from the very beginning that we thought along the same lines and talked the same language. There existed between us that rare affinity for which one searches for so long but seldom finds in another human being. We became friends at the moment of our meeting, and the friendship developed into that indescribable relationship that exists between two brothers."

George Padmore was one of the African men, born in the Caribbean, who changed the world for the better in the 20th century. Numbered among them must be the great Marcus Garvey, the first African who tried to unite Africa into one political, economic and social entity. Before Garvey, there was Edward Wilmot Blyden who was described by the Lagos Weekly Herald in 1890 as "the highest intellectual representative of the African race and who breathes African patriotism out of every pore of his body".

The list is long but mention must be made of Henry Sylvester Williams. He set up the first Pan-African Association in 1897 and organised the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900.

His origins

When George Padmore was born in Trinidad in 1902, he was born Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse. His father, James Alonso Nurse, was a school teacher. C.L.R. James described the home of schoolmasters in the Caribbean at that time as the centres of intellectual and social life of the community. James' father, Alphonso Nurse, had been born into slavery in Barbados.

Malcolm Nurse married Julia Semper in 1924. Before their one-and-only child was born, Malcolm had left Trinidad to study at Fisk University in America. He insisted that when the child was born, whether it was a boy or a girl, the child must be named Blyden after Edward Wilmot Blyden whom he described as the Caribbean African non pareil, meaning that he had no living equal.

Edward Blyden was the first to call for an African nationality and he developed the concept of the African personality popularised by Nkrumah. Malcolm Nurse's daughter, Blyden, supplied the family photos on these pages for this article.

This Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse pursued a single purpose in life, that was to free Africa from colonial domination, to win independence for Africa. Everything he did in his life was geared towards that one singular purpose.

While at Fisk, he met Nnamdi Azikiwe and they developed a lifelong working relationship, working for the same purpose. With Azikiwe, he set up the African Student Organisation to foster racial consciousness and a spirit of nationalism. One of its aims was to protect the sovereignty of Liberia.

He was a brilliant speaker, much in demand. He left Fisk, went to New York University Law School, then enrolled at Howard University in Washington. By that time, he had been recruited as a member of the Communist Party of the USA.

He adopted the name George Padmore for Communist Party business. He wrote for their paper, the New York Daily World, and he edited the Negro Champion, a Communist Party newspaper in Harlem. …